How to stay safe on Memorial Day while swimming, gathering outdoors

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — The second Memorial Day of the pandemic is looking a lot more optimistic than a year ago, says Dr. Joseph Khabbaza of the Cleveland Clinic.

“People who are vaccinated and have immunity or recent infection are going to have a very safe and normal Memorial Day. The biggest difference is that most people around us now have some kind of immunity to COVID-19.”

With more than half of U.S. adults fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, Khabbaza says taking COVID precautions this Memorial Day all depends on whether or not you are vaccinated and the company you’re with.

“If you are unvaccinated, you are a potential risk of spreading to unvaccinated or the people who have compromised immune system.”

While COVID may be less of a threat for vaccinated people, state officials are urging caution for other risks. 

“We’re probably expecting a lot more people to be out than last year just because the state is starting to open up,” said Stephanie Uber, natural resources officer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Uber says they want everyone to have a good time at their 75 state parks but if you’re getting in the water they advise keeping a sharp eye out for inexperienced swimmers and children.

“What a lot of folks don’t understand is that the lakes are not pools. There may be a sign posted there that says swim at your own risk. So, if that’s the case we do not have lifeguards on duty.”

Inflatable flotation devices are prohibited and boaters should make sure they have U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets for all on board. 

“If you’re going to swim from your boat, please make sure that you only do that in a swim area, that is only designated for boat swimming,” says Uber.

Along the Cleveland Metroparks, there is plenty to enjoy into the summer. 

“Down at Hinkley Lake Boathouse you can rent a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard and learn a new skill and spend some time out enjoying nature,” said Mary Rouse, Cleveland Metroparks Director of Outdoor Experiences.

Paddlers are urged to be on the lookout for freighters navigating the river.

They advise never staying in the middle of the river when one is approaching, rather getting out of the water until they pass.

Metroparks asks that boaters be aware of all locations with public boat launch access. As for swimming, they recommend guests only swim during lifeguarded hours, which begins June 5.

With this Memorial Day looking a little more like normal, “It’s just a very exciting and hopeful optimistic time after what was a very hard stretch for all of us,” said Khabbaza.

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